The Farmer’s Market

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Today was the final regularly-scheduled market of 2010.  We had a total of seven vendors and everyone did really well with the holidays fast approaching.  I took soap, sweet potatoes and sourwood honey and brought home cabbage and a ghost pepper which I plan to dry for pepper flakes.  It’s the hottest pepper on  earth with a million scoville units.  We have a ghost pepper plant in the greenhouse but it got a very late start and just now has blossoms.  We’ll overwinter it and hope for our own ghost peppers next year.   I plan to return to the market next April with asparagus and whatever else we decide to grow for the Spring.  The market is a lovely weekly social event.  If anyone is interested in purchasing soap, just leave a comment with your contact information and I’ll be in touch.

Dinner with a Top Chef

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If you know who Bryan Voltaggio is, you either watched the Emmy winning season of Top Chef last year or recognize him from your Williams-Sonoma catalog.  He was first runner up for Top Chef 2009, he lost to his brother Michael.  Bryan was also a 2010 James Beard award nominee.  Our good friend Craig called us at 4PM today to ask if we’d like to attend a 6PM dinner 90 minutes away where Bryan was going to be guest chef for the evening at a small restaurant.   That meant we had 30 minutes to get dressed, feed our animals and take the pot roast off the stove that had been simmering for the past 3 hours.  Of course we said yes and walked out the door at 4:30 (a record).  I even remembered to grab my camera on the way out the door.  Since I decided it would be quite dorky to be seen photographing  my food, I didn’t use flash but recorded all 5 courses.  They’re a little dark.  This was our third time meeting Bryan and second time tasting his food.  It was worth the drive just to taste his beef cheek lasagna.  I’m not sure what arctic char is but my husband sure would like to stock our pond with it.  🙂   We live in a very remote part of the country, but sometimes we get really special opportunities.  This was one of them.

Get Rid of Fruit Flies

Are they as bad at your house this time of year as they are at ours?  Here’s a trick to get rid of them without using anything harsh.  Put a piece of fruit in a glass or jar and stretch a piece of Saran wrap over the top.  Secure it with a rubber band.  Take a toothpick and punch 8 or 9 tiny holes in the top.  Place the jar near where you’re having a fruit fly problem and just wait.   As the fruit decays, it releases an odor that attracts the flies.  They crawl through the tiny holes to get to the fruit, but can’t find their way out.   Works like a charm!

Clear the Deck

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Wow, what a difference a few months makes!  We grow the majority of our heirloom tomatoes in pots on our deck, which runs the length of our house.   Now that we’ve had a hard frost, the plants are done for.  We spent a few hours this weekend moving the pots down to the greenhouse where they’ll spend the winter.  It’s weird getting all that deck space back.  What’s even weirder is in about 7 weeks we start all over again with planting tomato seeds!

On The Move

One of our chicken tractors is currently a Thanksgiving turkey tractor.  It’s pretty hefty as it was designed to withstand goats and sheep playing on the roof but it’s on wheels, so is easily moved.  There are large eye bolts on both the front and the back where we attach a removeable strap.   Just lean back and pull and it rolls to a fresh patch of grass for the turkey, and exposes a lot of turkey poop which give the dogs something  new to explore.   Everyone is happy on tractor moving day!

Proof

We have both a 10 by 10 foot hutch and a huge barn out in our pasture where our livestock guardian dogs could spend the night cozy and warm.  But they don’t.  They stay out with our animals to keep them safe.  We had a hard frost last night, Milos and FiFi were still wearing it on their coats when we went to feed them this morning.  Good dogs!

Home Grown Mushrooms

We’ve got them growing on logs.  If we were more successful at it, I’d post a tutorial but it’s surprisingly mysterious.  Here’s what I can tell you.  We bought some plug spawn in the Spring of 2009.  They look like pencil erasers and consist of mushroom spores suspended in a binder.  My husband prepared our logs by drilling holes and inserting the plug spawn.  The log selection is probably the most particular part of the process.  Certain trees work best with certain types of mushrooms.  These are shiitakes.  You then paint cheese wax over the spawn plugs and leave them in the shade for, well, forever it seems.  We had one log fruit by surprise last Fall from our first batch.  When the spores make their way through the log you can see white dots on the end of the log.  That’s our signal to soak the log in our pond over night, slam it on the ground to simulate a branch falling off a tree, and setting it in the shade to wait for mushrooms to appear.  Only it doesn’t always work.  However… we’ve had enough success not to get discouraged after 18 months and have added pearl and phoenix oyster mushroom logs to our stand.  They live in a hammock under a bradford pear tree to keep them shaded and off the ground.  Shiitake risotto… yum!

Our Weekend with the Stars of True Blood

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True Blood is an HBO show in it’s third year that’s won a slew of awards & accolades.  It’s based on Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series of books.  As I’ve posted before, I’ve won a total of three different True Blood contests this year.   The most recent (and most fabulous) prize was a weekend in Orlando at the second annual EyeCon True Blood convention.   Four members of the cast spent the weekend at Q&A sessions, signing autographs, posing for photos and hanging out with us.  We learned that Joe Manganiello, who plays Alcide on the show, is in talks to be the next big screen Superman.  Kristen Bauer is prettier in person than she is on screen as Pam.  Sam Trammel started out in the Groudlings and his dream is to host Saturday Night Live.  Allan Hyde had just turned 19 when he got the role of 2000 year old vampire Godric.  He looks really different without the gladiator haircut and ancient tattoos!

Stinky Boy

Our herdsire’s name is Rudy, aka Stinky Boy.  He keeps peeing on his head to make himself extra attractive to the girls.  Isn’t that disgusting?  I can’t stand to be near him this time of year.  That’s him in the top photo.  He was born on our farm.  We were so happy when he was born because it meant we could get rid of his daddy, Jerry Lee.  That’s him in the bottom photo, he’s a purebred Alpine.   The folks we bought him from were calling him Elvis because of the magnificent shock of curly hair he has on his forehead, but we thought he looked more like Jerry Lee Lewis.  He was the devil.   He was underfoot all the time and had to be the center of attention.  He stole the keys out of our Mule.  Twice.  He figured out how to open the pasture gate with his lips so we had to rig a special lock for it.   Most of our visitors can’t even figure out how to open the pasture gate and they have opposable thumbs.  We took him to the stockyard auction and like to think he’s on someone else’s farm bothering the crap out of them.

A Handmade Tractor

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You may be wondering what is this chicken tractor I’ve mentioned in a few of my posts.  It isn’t some contraption that is powered by chickens, although that would be quite a sight!  It’s a portable coop used to raise chickens on pasture grass.  We have two of them that my husband designed and built.  We keep our meat birds in them when we have them.  The egg layers have their own little barn and barnyard.  When it’s chilly out, we cover it with a tarp to keep the wind off of them.  There’s a  feeder and commercial waterer hanging inside.  That’s the red thing.  It’s fed from the white plastic bucket which we keep filled with water.  They’re in the pasture with our very large dogs, so predators aren’t an issue.  It’s on wheels so gets moved every day.  We just attach a strap to it and drag it over to a new patch of grass.  One person can handle the move.  The birds love it when they get a new patch of grass to scratch around and eat bugs out of.  The goats think it’s a toy.  The occasional sheep does, too.  They get up there and knock each other off while the birds are chirping ‘get off of my roof’ inside.  Raising poultry on pasture makes for some really healthy birds.

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